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The disproportionate number of women in leadership positions is a problem at both the national and local levels — Penn is no exception. We applaud Ariel Koren, president of the Class Board of 2015, for earning an influential role on campus and for her conviction in a recent guest column that “every student here is perfectly positioned to effect a change.” However, to say that Penn is free of obstacles to female leadership is inaccurate and misleading. As leaders, we have all encountered obstacles specific to women in pursuing and fulfilling our roles.

We have been subject to objectifying language. We have participated in board meetings where our colleagues — both men and women — focus on physical characteristics of female members instead of their merits. Our opinions have been deferred in favor of male voices. We have been characterized as too aggressive or standoffish, while our male counterparts are praised as being efficient and confident for exhibiting the same qualities. Even the very existence of some of our organizations has been challenged because they advocate specifically for gender equity.

In reaching our leadership positions on campus, we have all learned to navigate these subtle forms of gender discrimination in our daily work. Our campus is not inherently hostile, but sexism and a gendered perception of what leadership entails is deeply ingrained in our society. The 13 of us — and Koren — have been able to thrive because our passion, our tenacity and our intelligence. Our ability to inspire one another has also allowed us to overcome sexism on campus. But, Penn is far from being an even playing field. It’s up to students of all genders to become more aware and critical of these less obvious, but very real, barriers to success

Faye Cheng
Vice President, Undergraduate Assembly

Isabel Friedman
Chair, Penn Political Coalition

Madeline Glickman
Producer, ‘The Vagina Monologues’

Meg Hlousek
Chair, Penn Consortium of Undergraduate Women

Cynthia Ip
Speaker, Undergraduate Assembly

Michelle Leong
Chair, Asian Pacific Student Coalition

Pallavi Podapati
Co-Chair, Civic House Associates Coalition

Corinne Rich
former Chair, Lambda Alliance

Melissa Roberts
Chair, Student Activities Council

Shana Rusonis
President, Social Planning and Events Committee

Aya Saed
Planning and Facilitating Chair, UMOJA

Lakshmi Sivaguru
Executive Member, Women in Leadership Series

Jillian Wang
President, Panhellenic Council

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